The Free Ebook

When it comes to self publishing, the price point can be key. It seems to be generally regarded that $2.99 is a good price for a novel, offering value to readers whilst providing authors with a reasonable royalty. After you’ve written several novels in a series, you might like to drop the first book to just .99cents or even make it free, providing huge incentive for readers to explore your characters and get hooked on a series which ultimately leads them to buy later books. However, as a first time publisher, when you only have a single sole novel for sale, this is not possible.

Over at the fantastic blog by Lindsay Buroker, I was reading about advertising strategies, and the possibility of offering a free ebook. It’s a great plan if, as I’ve mentioned, you already have several books out. If you’re making your first forays into self publishing like me, it’s a bit of a non-starter. However, something has to be done to get that trickle of initial sales, and having a freebie is definitely attractive.

Momentarily touched upon in Lindsay’s blog was the prospect of writing a short story or novella as a way of leading readers to your main title. This could then be offered for free and would, hopefully, encourage fans of this short work to check out your debut book. It got me thinking…how could this be done?

I have many areas within Inside Evil that I could explore in a short story. Could I write and offer them for free? Yes. Would I want to? No, and here’s why. To write a short story on an aspect of a debut novel means that you effectively give spoilers to readers. I want people to discover and learn about my characters through their read of Inside Evil, not already know who they are at the outset. Writing about peripheral characters could be a possibility, but this means that when they appear in your main novel, their character is of no surprise. In fact, readers may be waiting for their appearance and thus many elements of storytelling are removed. For example, your lead character may be about to discover someone they’ve never met  who has surprising or hidden secrets. But, if a reader has already downloaded the free ebook, none of the emerging details are a surprise in the slightest.

It results in a circumstance where you either have to give so much away in a short story that reader enjoyment is spoiled, or you create a dull read with little excitement which will definitely not engage anyone enough so as to make your main work an attractive purchase. As a result, I truly feel that free ebooks should be left for first titles in an extensive series. But then, you’re brought back to the initial question, how do I attract readers when I have just one novel?

I don’t know the answer yet, and though offering free ebooks should be seriously considered at some point, it’s not for the first time self publisher. If you’ve had any luck with offering free ebooks let me know. Did you write several books before making the first in the series free? Or was it a side story to attract readers to your debut title? The hunt for answers continues…..

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